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Secret of Mana - Retroview

The First Square Non-Final Fantasy Gem

By: Noj Airk


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 10
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 9
   Plot 7
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete 25-40 Hours  
Overall
9
Criteria

Secret of Mana
 

   After the original Final Fantasy’s release in the US, which was more successful than its release in Japan, people avidly awaited a sequel to the legendary Nintendo RPG. Later, without exporting the next sequels, the legendary Final Fantasy II (really IV) was released, proving with its excellence that Square had a winning formula for making the conventional RPG amazing. However, the Americans were left in the dark as to if Square was good for anything else. Then, about two years later came the answer: yes! The sole game that did this was Seiken Densetsu 2, or Secret of Mana, a Final Fantasy style atmosphere with yet another new perspective on the RPG world.

   The game plays more like a medieval action game, only it contains a plot and all the RPG elements that one can think of. The battle system is based on a wide range of movements and actions. Monsters come in many designs, and each design has a couple of incarnations of HP and stats. Each design also has it’s own range of movement, speed and basic abilities all of its incarnations will carry out. As such, the players are fighting enemies that are easily as energetic as the players themselves. Luckily, hacking-n-slashing is enough to get you through almost all obstacles in your way, be it baddie or foliage. As for the bosses, you have the ability to slowly build up your attacks to strike at them. The bosses are all fairly simple, but all require a strategy to beat. The weapons themselves offer the special moves that the player builds up. With eight different weapons, each capable of eight special moves, you have a huge variety of different attacks. You can even switch which character you play as, in case your main hero is dead or engulfed in flames; just hope that his battle meter will make him brave enough to fight.

   The interface flows perfectly with the battle system. After each enemy is defeated, you gain GP and Exp., without having to collect anything. When the going gets tough during a battle, you can just go into the character option menus, and select either a healing item or magic. When you access the menus, all action stops, allowing you to make your choice, for the character probably knows what he/she wants to do, and shouldn’t have to be hit while scrolling through the menus. Additionally, if you are tired or hurt from fighting, you can simply go to the nearest village or civilized location and rest and/or buy. You can just ask a cannon shooter to shoot you to the nearest place, which is a truly award winning method of travel in an RPG. Saving comes with the sleeping as an option; and if you accidentally decline, or simply do not need to rest, you can for free simply decline sleeping, yet accept the option to save. You cannot carry more than a couple of each item, but in case only a few candies or chocolates isn’t enough, you can always run into Neko, a cat (it’s Japanese for cat), who will sell you any normal item, for double the price, however. He will also sell you the latest in equipment, but it would be better to just buy them in the nearest village.


Silly Little Comment on Screen
Am I high, or is everything all yellow except for us?  

   The music in Secret of Mana is both grandeurous and energetic. The music is usually fun to listen to, with a few exceptions of course, and the tracks “The Meridian Dance” and “Save Time for Love” (the last battle and the theme inside the Mana fortress) are every bit as good as any track by Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtracks. The sound track itself can wait though, as some of the tracks do seem quite gameplay oriented. The sound effects are quite nice, and lovely as far as sound effects go.

   This game, from its artistic value to its gameplay, is very creative. However, the plot isn’t really something to brace yourself for like the other games by the company. The storyline is advanced, leading you from point to point beautifully. However, the detail of the plot remains quite a bit to be desired, as the dialogue between the characters resembles the amount found in the original Final Fantasy than the fourth in the series. The translation of what everyone is saying is usually right on the money, but there just isn’t enough of it to warrant a really high rating. Secret of Mana is story driven, but what makes players play through is not the interesting storyline, but the immense levels of fun the gameplay offers. The characters will grow on you, and you will eventually really care about them; but having only three, that really isn’t overly impressive.

   Like I said, the artistic value is nice, but their executions are great! The maps contain nicely colored and detailed textures/maps (computer graphic terms), and the characters look almost identical in style and detail to those you’ll see in Final Fantasy Tactics. Each of those special moves I mentioned earlier each execute different animations of the characters and the weapons themselves, almost choreographed. Whenever you freeze an enemy, you see a very cute and hilarious snowman, there are spell books that flip through pages and sometimes stop at nude portraits, and there is later a turtle that speeds toward you by turning its legs into wheels and its tail into a tail-pipe! I had to see that one several times to believe it. This was also the first RPG to really utilize the 3-D map as you fly around the world. The graphics in Secret of Mana were a huge step up from Final Fantasy IV.

   What makes RPG’s commonly have low replay value is that the powerful and twisty storyline is far less interesting during the second time through. However, like I stated earlier, the fun of the game is what really drives you to play it through the first time, so you will easily find as much fun through the second time and the third time through. This is the prime example of an RPG that you’ll simply play over and over again for kicks.


Shiny treasure? Where?
Shiny treasure? Where?  

   This game is straightforward a blast to play. Anyone who wishes to escape to a world of simple fun and enjoyment should pick up a copy of Secret of Mana. There is really no reason not to buy this game; the price may be hefty for an old videogame, but there really isn’t a price for fun is there? Just remember that somewhere this game is collecting dust, and this is a title that couldn’t deserve that status less.


Yes, I'm having my furniture replaced. That's why this room seems empty.
Yes, I'm having my furniture replaced. That's why this room seems empty.  




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